I apologize in advance for how pathetic this blog entry is going to be. I've been holding all this stuff in for about a month now and I just have to let it out. Maybe if I do, things will get better. But I promise not to be so lame again.
Anyway, you've been warned....
Back in May I blogged about rediscovering my writer's high. Unfortunately right now I'm in the opposite situation: the deepest darkest writer's low.
The book that I was so excited about back in May--the bartender book as I'd been calling it since it is set largely in a bar-- quickly became the bane of my existence this summer. My agent loved those first 100 pages that I loved, but she pointed out that it's a hard market, so she wanted me to write a full. No problem, I said and I had every intention of getting it into her by the middle of September or early October at the latest because she was going on maternity leave. I set about writing as fast as I could, telling myself that it could suck and I didn't have to actually enjoy writing it because rewriting is my favorite part, if I could just get the words on the page to revise, I'd be happy. But for the most part I felt miserable. I hated the words. My goals felt increasingly impossible. I just kept digging myself into a deeper and deeper hole of writerly angst. I stopped even posting the occasional progress reports on my blog because I was afraid if I posted my true feelings about how I felt about my book and my career in general, I would scare off my few readers.
As mid September approached and with it, my agent's maternity leave, I emailed her to say that I wouldn't have the book in. My goal had been unrealistic, too high pressure for me. I was aiming for December 15th now when she returned. Once I said that, it was like a weight had lifted. I'd also finally worked my way to a point in the book that I felt I could write really well. (A funeral scene. I am at my best when my characters are at their saddest, what can I say?) The story started flowing. I remember why I was writing that book and why I loved those characters. And I thought maybe everything would be okay after all even though I saw how dark the horizon was. I didn't know how to end the book, but I hoped that if I continued to put one foot in front of the other I might just find my way. I had a vague idea after all. I had an outline carefully written even though it didn't sound right any more, but maybe just maybe...
On September 20th (and I remember the date precisely because it was my brother's birthday and I took him to a concert that I hoped would reignite my muse), it all came to a grinding halt. A secret was revealed. Characters reacted. And then.... nothing. I didn't know where to go next. Nothing I'd plotted previously seemed right. So I've spent the past few weeks in various stages of angst. Sometimes I'm quietly ignoring the fact that I absolutely can't seem to write and definitely can't write well or come up with the correct storyline for my characters. Sometimes I'm having huge nervous breakdowns like crying in the shower, making myself physically ill breakdowns because I think I broke this book. I think it is beyond repair. I can't see how to fix it and I don't know where I will find the energy to start a new one.
Yeah, see why I haven't been blogging about this? It makes me feel pathetic. It's strange. When it comes to blogging, I'm generally very open. I've talked freely about the self injury in my past, the abusive relationship, the struggles with depression, drug and alcohol abuse, but when it comes to how I've been feeling about my career lately, I've been very hesitant to share, fearful that I will come across as whiny, ungrateful, pathetic, etc. I can be a perfectionist and I don't like admitting when I feel like I've failed.
But I feel like I've failed.
My first two books, especially my second, which I put my heart and soul into, have not done very well. I fear that soon they will go out of print. I feel that the only way to save them is write a really good, much more successful book that will make readers hungry for my backlist. I wish that I had spent more time writing that book instead of promoting the other two since I didn't really have the money or skills to promote it in such a way that would make an impact.
Since those books came out, I have been working on two books. The first was submitted to MTV Books as my option book. They turned it down. I had an idea to make it into an adult book, the bartender book, which would be more in line with my vision for it anyway, so I tried to stay positive. I also had a YA paranormal idea, that I was very excited about. Wrote a partial of that, which made the rounds and received rejections, though a couple of places said they would be interested in seeing the full. So the plan was to try to finish both of these books this year or early next year. I started with bartender book because I was the most excited about it at the time, but then came the block.
The block is partially to do with me struggling with the story, which is normal. It has happened with my other two books as well. But since I wrote those other two books before I had a real idea of the publishing industry, I didn't have two of the issues that I am having now.
The main one is word count. My books always start out long. I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE was 150,000 words in it's first draft. I had an inkling that that was probably too long. It sold at 112,000 words, which I didn't know was too long, but it was and I eventually got it down into the mid-90s. Right now the bartender book is at 115,000 words and I still have a lot (and I mean A LOT) of loose ends to tie up, so I'm looking at another 150,000 word draft, but unlike with IWBYJR, I don't have an idea of how to shave it down. There aren't any real subplots to cut. It seems that the story I came up with is simply too big. And I freeze just thinking about how I can possibly fix it. Also, this makes me want to rush the ending and it makes me doubt every idea I have for the ending.
And for me, when I start to doubt one thing, I start to doubt *everything*. This leads to the other issue I didn't have before I was published--dwelling on if the book will sell. I never concerned myself with markets before. But now I think, this is another contemporary realistic fiction book with quirky characters. It's going to have the same fate as my other two books--if someone will even buy it this time. What if I'm turning myself out inside out again and end up really disappointed. Should I be working on that paranormal instead? Maybe that had more potential or what about that post-apocalyptic book that I literally dreamed up a year and a half ago on my 30th birthday. It was dream, maybe that's a sign. I should have written it then, post-apoc is huge now. Maybe if I had just dropped everything and written it, I wouldn't be freelancing and bartending and teaching (don't even get me started on the teaching--the other thing that has completely screwed up my fall) just to try to make ends meet. Maybe I should give up on the bartending book, at least for now and try to write that post-apocalyptic book for NaNoWriMo (which I have never attempted before because writing super fast is not what suits me well). I have cheated on the bartender book a little bit by writing that one and it felt kinda good. I don't know a ton about the story yet, but it's interesting....
But it also felt bad because I've been beating myself up big time that I haven't finished a full manuscript since I finished revising BALLADS OF SUBURBIA almost 2 years ago. I have to finish a full book to sell another book and I feel like if I don't finish and sell another book soon, the few fans I have will forget me and I am so so so grateful for them, I have the best fans in the world and I feel like I'm letting them down terribly.
So yeah I wish that I could write faster. I wish that I could write better. But right now I can't seem to write at all. And I have friends urging me to take a break, but I feel like I can't. I've already spent a month making no progress on my writing. If I take another week off there is no way I'll finish this book and revise it by December 15th. If I don't finish a book by the end of this year, I'll be incredibly frustrated with myself, even more than I am now.
Thanks for letting me vent about this. I promise not to do it again since I don't want to be the Debbie Downer of the blogosphere. But maybe some of you out there have advice. Tips on how you got through your writer's lows or blocks. The typical stuff that I do--the music, the running, the doing other tasks to try ignore it and hope genius will strike--hasn't been working because I think I've almost got myself to the point of creating a writing phobia. I'm so scared of being stuck and of failing that I *am* being stuck and failing. So thoughts? Should I cheat on the bartender book with the idea from the dream? Should I force myself to take time off from writing completely and then go back to the bartender book? Should I just keep plodding along? That is, after tomorrow. I'm taking off tomorrow for sure to shop for Halloween costumes. Hopefully it will make me slightly less neurotic.